Call it the Col. Jessup candidacy.
During a town hall event at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics Monday, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told the 100 or so Republicans in the audience that if they want to stop Donald Trump from becoming the party’s 2024 nominee, they need him on the debate stage.
And Christie’s fundamental message as a potential 2024 candidate is Republicans definitely need to stop Trump if they want to have a shot at winning in 2024.
The NHIOP town hall was the last in a series of interviews and media events Christie conducted across the state Monday as he considers entering the 2024 presidential race. He says he will announce a decision within the next 60 days.
Asked what his best memory was from campaigning for president in New Hampshire in the 2016 primary, Christie said, “Come on. It was the debate.
“It was the debate right before the primary in 2016 when [Florida Sen.] Marco Rubio and I became acquainted. And I’ll tell you that the thing that I think is important about that if I run again: Donald Trump is not going to go away by himself,” Christie said.
“You’d better have somebody on that stage who can do to him what I did to Marco because that’s the only thing that’s going to defeat Donald Trump.
“So you need to think about who’s got the skill to do that and who’s got the guts to do it because it’s not going to end nicely no matter what. His end will not be a calm and quiet conclusion,” Christie warned.
Christie’s tough talk about taking on Trump echoed his media message earlier in the day. He told Drew Cline on WFEA radio, “Since Donald Trump has been leading our party, all we’ve done is lose. And if Trump is the nominee in 2024, we’ll lose to Biden again.”
On Jack Heath’s radio show later that morning, Christie noted Trump never gave him a nickname during the 2016 primary. “I didn’t get a nickname because I’m a guy he doesn’t want to fight,” Christie said.
Christie was endorsed by the Union Leader in 2016 and had the support of state Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) but still finished sixth in the New Hampshire primary. Trump won — his first-ever election victory — and Christie endorsed him soon after. He was the first 2016 candidate to do so.
“I’m not ‘Never Trump.’ I chaired his transition,” Christie said. “I played Hillary Clinton in the debate prep. Then I took some sedatives and played Joe Biden in 2020.”
Christie made the case that his past support for Trump shows his opposition isn’t elitism or knee-jerk anti-Trump opposition. Instead, he opposes Trump because he is a flawed 2024 candidate, and he lost the credibility to serve with his handling – or rather mishandling – of the 2020 election results.
“I got off the train when he stood in the White House and said the election was stolen when he didn’t have a single fact to back it up,” Christie said.
Polls show Trump has a big lead among GOP primary voters across the country, though recent polling indicates the race is closer in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Christie rarely shows up in national polling, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — another unannounced potential candidate — has a RealClearPolitics average of 29.2 percent to Trump’s 44 percent.
That didn’t slow Christie down.
“Donald Trump said a couple of weeks ago, ‘I am your retribution.’ Guess what, everybody? No thanks,” Christie said. “If I’m going to pick somebody to be my retribution. I guarantee this: It wouldn’t be him. Because he doesn’t want to be my retribution.
“The only person he cares about is him,” Christie said, which is why the Republican Party needs to make a change.
“We are losing because we are playing to anger and retribution and self-indulgence instead of working to make this country a better place,” Christie said.
“We better pick a candidate who can win again and bring hope to the country.”